Friday, Oct. 24 marks the release of the film “Ouija.” “Ouija,” directed by Stiles White and produced by Universal Pictures and Hasbro, tells the story of a group of kids who unlock the dark powers of a Ouija board while trying to communicate with a friend. While the film may be the first significant exposure for many to the Ouija board, the game (or spiritual tool depending on your outlook) has been a popular product for Hasbro (makers of “Monopoly” and “Scrabble”) for a long time.
Ouija’s story begins in the late 1890’s where, according to Mitch Horowitz (author of the 2010 book “Occult America”), two men got the idea to patent an alphabet board and a planchette together as a Ouija Board. Horowitz says the meaning on the name “Ouija” is unknown.
According to Horowitz, by the 1960’s the patent was in the hands of the toy company Parker Brothers, which would become Hasbro in 1991. In 1966 the company began marketing the piece as a board game.
“There was a lot of fascination with occult and alternative spirituality in the 1960’s,” says Horowitz. Parker Brothers capitalized on that fascination and in 1966 Ouija outsold Monopoly.
Horowitz estimates that between 20 and 25 million Ouija boards have been sold in America, but it has not always been easy. After enjoying immense popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Horowitz says that sales fell off 1980’s and 1990’s. Hasbro told the International business Times that they do not release sales figures for any of their board games, but Mitch Horowitz instead points to a change in the marketing strategy of the company (then Parker Brothers) as evidence of struggling sales.
“When you see a company redesigning a product it usually means something isn’t working,” says Horowitz.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s Parker Brother went through multiple iterations of the Ouija board, including a glow in the dark version of the game. The overall strategy seemed to be softening the game’s image in light of fears about the game being a sinister or even satanic tool. Horowitz says the company shifted to targeting young girls who might use the board at sleepovers and parties.
However, today it seems there is renewed fascination with the Ouija board’s ability to frighten and titillate its audience. Hasbro (and Universal) is banking on that fascination.
A spokesperson for Hasbro said the company is confident the movie will ignite excitement over the Ouija board rather than scare people away, telling the International Business Times, “The ‘Ouija’ film is an opportunity to tell a bigger story around the game. With the Ouija brand, it is all about the lore of the game and the fascination with the unknown – these are core tenants that we bring to life in the film. Our goal is to engage more consumers in the ‘Ouija’ brand by giving them a new and fun way to experience it.”
Whether the Ouija Board is just a game or something more, the film will likely introduce a whole new generation to the Ouija board. “Ouija” premieres Oct. 24 nationwide.
Watch the trailer for “Ouija” below:
Will you be seeing “Ouija?” Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.